Motorcycle Cruise Control: Is it a DIY Upgrade?

Yes, you can add cruise control it is a simple do-it-yourself job. Several designs are available but they all operate to mechanically hold the throttle grip in a set position. This provides basic cruise control functionality, although a lot less sophisticated than OEM units they do a good job.

While there are many clever designs, for your safety get one that is a “breakaway” that only works on friction. The friction used must be able to be easily overridden by the rider, so the throttle can be closed for safety sake. I strongly do not recommend any version that uses a physical extension of the throttle grip and is operated by the rider holding it in position with the palm of the hand.

Benefits of Cruise Control

The number one reason riders install cruise control is to avoid wrist cramping. Cramping is a side effect of holding a throttle grip in place for long periods. With a standard throttle setup there is no way to give your wrist a break, even if you try different ways to grip the throttle, your wrist is in the same position. 

An additional benefit is the potential of better gas mileage, and range. Riders have reported getting 10% plus increases, but some have seen zero. If you drive “for economy” before installing cruise it’s unlikely that you will see a decrease in fuel consumption. After all, cruise control is just a steady hand on the throttle, something an experienced rider can also do manually.

Another, less obvious benefit could be in avoiding speeding tickets. I assume you set the cruise control for somewhere near the legal limit. Cruise can help those riders who tend to gradually increase their speed until they are at risk of getting a ticket. This is a real possibility with current ultra-smooth and comfortable touring machines since there is less feedback to the rider. 

Paddle Grip – Close Call 

I do not recommend any type of cruise that uses a physical extension to the throttle grip, where your hand keeps it in place (palm paddle design). I have seen a few “DIY for 5 bucks” type solutions, these are all accidents waiting to happen in my opinion. This story hopefully will convince you too.

I was experiencing very bad wrist cramping, so I put a paddle-style throttle grip on my 400cc Kawasaki triple. It did work well, until the day I had a passenger on the back. The weight of the passenger caused the motorcycle to wheelie very easily, and the powerband on those 2 stroke triples didn’t help either. I started off, with some extra throttle, but went into a wild wheelie, made worse by the paddle-grip throttle. As the bike accelerated it wheelied. I could not easily back-off the throttle which increased my speed and wheelie! All that could be done was to hang on lean forward.

In the end, we survived. But after that experience, I strongly warn against any type of cruise control or any design that could potentially get locked in place, where there is little or no rider override possible. Look at the designs carefully – is there any potential way they could get stuck? Would it operate in extreme weather and can it be disengaged or rolled back with heavy gloves on?

I would personally lump in the DIY electronic cruise controls with risky & not recommended for similar reasons. I do not trust my life to non-OEM electrical add-ons, especially when there is a servo-motor connected to the throttle cable and is operated by a black-box. 

DIY Choices

Throttle Grip Clamp & Lever design is the simplest and cheapest. The unit clamps on the throttle grip, towards the inboard of the rider’s hand. Friction is adjustable with a knurled set screw. The extension rests on the brake lever keeping your throttle in the desired open position. This design lets the rider override open throttle setting by turning the grip overcoming the friction holding it in place.  There are versions without the set screw, but they rely solely on the 

More Color Choices – Check on Amazon

Bar end mounted. Very low profile and integrated look. Friction is set by rotating the knob that sticks out from the handlebar end. Note, you may need to balance the handlebar dynamics with a dummy that installs in the clutch side. 

Throttle Grip with Quick Release – this design mounts between the throttle grip and the handlebar mounted throttle housing. It still uses friction, but it applied to the side of the throttle housing. The rider can still override the unit’s friction if the button release did not work for any reason.

It incorporates a thumb operated quick set & release mechanism.  This design is superior since it can be operated with one hand, which makes it the safest & best design in my opinion. There are upper and lower versions to be used depending on throttle design of your bike. Another nice feature is that it is firmly connected to your motorcycle, making it less tempting for someone to steal.

ATLAS Throttle Lock – Check Amazon

This is a similar design quick release unit, but the friction area is on the throttle grip. I think these are not as good looking as the Bar End or the Quick Release units, above. But they are priced a lot lower also.

For Harleys

HD’s come with a standard throttle set screw, found on the underside of the throttle housing. This can effectively be used for cruise control, I have used mine, and it works pretty well. Access to the screw while driving is not the best and could be unsafe. This item simply replaces the standard set screw with a thumb-operated lever.

Cruise Mate – Check Amazon Price

Can Electronic Cruise be Added? 

“Yes”, but I would be very concerned with the few choices available. And none seems to be a DIY bolt-on experience. So there will be lots of tinkering to fit and get it working. These kits are well over $200 so there very questionable value. With the very few choices and manufactures there might be an issue with replacement parts and service. 

  • Audiovox CCS100 –$200 plus, generic cruise control, not made for motorcycles but can be adapted, 
  • Rostra 250-1223 Universal – $300, plus accessories required for motorcycle application,
  • MC Cruise – $800 for complete kits, single supplier from Australia

Can I Add OEM Crusie Control? 

Well, it does seem like a logical possibility…but there is no clear parts list or instructions available. You will also need to study wiring diagrams and parts lists to identify the cruise control components. And since these will all be OEM parts costs will be high. From my research, I’ve found no one that has been successful, and OEM parts alone can reach or exceed $1,000. 

Does it Help Gas Mileage?

Maybe – if you have an erratic driving style, always speeding up, passing cruise control could save you on gas. But any savings is based on how and where you drive.  You, of course, need open road where you maintain a constant speed. You can easily save as much by driving as if you had cruise installed, just keep a constant steady speed. And accelerate modestly.

Are there Insurance Liabilities?

Yes, there is a potential risk. As with any modification you make there is a risk that it could be blamed for an accident. If you changed the bike and it can be shown that it was unsafe your insurance claims could be denied. If you select a simple design, where the rider can easily override the throttle position, there is low risk. You will ultimately need to evaluate and make an informed decision. This is another reason I would stay away from “palm-paddle” style or non-OEM electronic add-ons. Either of these could easily be blamed for the accident, and it would be hard to prove otherwise.

Wrapping it Up

This selection of mechanical cruise controls will do the job of holding highway speed, and keeping your wrist cramp free. They are affordable, ranging from $30 to $140, and can be easily installed with only a few hand tools. If you spend any length time with the throttle set to a constant speed any of these units are a worthwhile upgrade. As a bonus, you may also avoid a speeding ticket or two, and possibly get better gas mileage.

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